And we’re off! School has started and while our children are adjusting to new teachers and schedules there are some important steps parents can take to connect with your kid's school and ensure it’s a successful (read: less stressful) year.
We are still remembering how to pack lunches and (occasionally ) wear socks around here. But even as we're finding rhythm on the home front, I've learned, the hard way, that I need to take these key few steps early to help me connect with my kids' schools, and feel less overall crazy, throughout the year.
Get a School Calendar and integrate it with your calendar to connect with your kid's school (even when there is no school)!
Our school sends home a hardcopy of the school calendar with each student at the start of the year. The calendar is also found on the district website and is posted in Facebook groups. Get your hands on this thing and DO NOT LET GO…until you have entered in each date into your own calendar. This takes time and is not fun. And yes, you probably have some sort of parent-instinct on when Christmas break will occur. But those of us, wounded through experience, know it is not the vacation dates that get us – it’s the EARLY RELEASES.
Again, not always intuitive to the parent juggling four kids' schedules and the dog's allergy pills… I figure, if I show up to pick up, this is the answer. Yes, but no. Schools are working very hard to keep a large number of children safe and moving in the right direction. Dismissal is a logistical beast. If you are making a change, find out how to do it best to avoid confusion. I have learned this through not listening, doing it the wrong way, slowing hard-working people down, and making my children cry. You’re welcome! Know the Policy. Tape it to your face if it helps.
Go to Back to School Night so you can ask your teachers all the important questions you have.
Most schools host an event a few weeks into the year, in which parents visit the classroom, and hear the teacher present curriculum, expectations, and other classroom procedures. In order to connect with your kid's school, prioritize this event. Listen and ask questions. Sit in your child’s desk and take in their perspective for a few minutes. Visit the music, art, library, gym, and technology teachers. Introduce yourself briefly and make a connection. These professionals are working so hard to support your child, showing up and showing your face is an embodied “Thank you.”
Beyond that, at these events teachers will let you know the best way to communicate with them. Many teachers use appssuch as Bloomz, ClassDojo, or Talking Points. Others prefer email. Some will welcome your texts. If they are not clear, ASK. This will save you time and reduce the risk of interrupting their teaching schedule.
Some principals invite parents to make appointments throughout the summer in order to meet face to face and discuss concerns. Others host “conversations” a few times a year, in which parents sign up and are able to discuss school issuesin a group setting. Schools have different cultures and leaders have different styles. Find out how to support your Administrator, even while giving feedback, by using the platforms they have established.
Many of us desire to contribute some time to the school but forget to communicate and the year goes on…Do not simply want to volunteer – plan to volunteer and make your intentions clear before the end of September. School organizations such as PTA and Fundraising Committees, as well as classroom teachers are in full motion by the time school starts and would rather be working on their goals than recruiting help. Let them know how you plan to contribute.
Not sure how to help? Know thyself, I say (and thy schedule). I work flexible hours meaning I can run by the school for an hour or so but have a harder time committing to all-day field trips. Know Thyself. I’m at the grocery store almost every day so I can grab juice boxes or grapes for class parties, but when it comes to the Pinterest Pumpkin Faced Mandarin Orange Pops, I am not your girl. Know Thyself.
When we connect with our kid's schools, we create greater feelings of belonging for our children and an increased positivity surrounding school for our whole family. Mom yelling about the "surprise" Early Release does not have the same affect. Go forth and love your schools this year!